Monday, September 5, 2011

Junoon: Elegant Indian in the Flatiron District

By: Anne M. Raso

Junoon is in the trendy Flatiron District and dare we say it? -- It's been our most elegant experience in the world of Indian cuisine in Manhattan to date. All the managers are also sommeliers, so you can get perfect spirit accompaniments to every course. Every bit of attention is paid to detail in this fine eatery--that looks as if you let P. Diddy redecorate the Taj Mahal--and the staff is extremely knowledgeable about everything served and will tweak food to your liking. People come her for birthdays, anniversaries, with dates they are trying to impress...or just because they enjoy the finest delicacies of South Asia. While it might look modern, Junoon chefs pretty much keep to traditional recipes for Indian dishes but does them with the occasional non-traditional spice thrown in for good measure...and of course, all meat is prime and all vegetable are as straight off a local farm as possible.

We started off our evening with the refreshing Aromatic Apricot cocktail ($13), which is a concoction of apricot infused gin, muddled cilantro, lime syrup and a float of sweet sparkling Torrontes. It's a must for apricot drink lovers and was surprisingly non-sweet and fragrant like a parcel of freshly picked fruit. The bar at Junoon makes all their own syrups that the drinks are based on, and soon they will be serving a range of "mocktails" for those who prefer no alcohol in their diet and we were offered a sneak peek of what they say will be the rage in the future amongst tee-totaler clientele: homemade saffron soda.
Aromatic Apricot 
Our selected appetizers (they welcome sharing at Junoon) were Lahsooni Gobi (crispy cauliflower, chili flakes and garlic tomato chutney, $12) and Hyperbadi Patthar Paneer (Indian fresh cheese, roasted onion chutney and chili threads, $12). Both were a real treat--the cauliflower was the perfect mellow vegetable to be put in such a tangy tomato-based sauce and the Indian fresh cheese was buttery and fresh as can be. It was truly the best Indian cheese dish either my dining partner or myself has ever tried. The chili threads were of a medium "heat" and added just the right finish to the cheese dish.
Lahsooni Gobi
We also got the Spiced Paneer Salad, which was hand sliced and seared paneer with roasted cherry tomatoes, breakfast radishes and pine nuts ($10). There was a unique blend of several vinegars in the dressing that had a slightly sweet tinge.
Spiced Paneer Salad
We selected two poultry dishes as our main course--Chicken Awadhi Korma (made with cashew nuts, green cardamom, saffron and cream, $23) and Chicken Malvan (made with fresh coconut, Green Chiles, Fresh Cilantro and black Cardamom, $22). The chicken breast cubes in both were succulent in both, but the Malvan featured a mild yogurt sauce with minimal spiciness while the Korma had an unforgettable green herbal kick that made you want to dip the paratha in from the Bread Basket ($14) in the extra sauce until our plates were clean! (The bread basket is a generous portion of naan, garlic naan and paratha big enough for three or four people.) You can order a large portion of Mint Raita--which we like to use on more than just bread--for $6 and we are sure you will enjoy the touches of cumin, mint, mango and pomegranate pieces in it!
Chicken Awadhi Korma
Chicken Awadhi Korma
The lamb chop entree, Dahi Wale Lamb Chops (made with “hung” yogurt, white pepper, green cardamom, fresh ginger with a yam cake on the side, $36) were outrageously tender and succulent. These could easily give Cipriani a run for its money as most succulent lamb chops in Manhattan. The spicing was perfect, and the white pepper added just the right "kick" at the end.
Dahi Wale Lamb Chops
For vegetable dishes, we chose Amritsari Aloo Wadi (sundried black lentil dumplings with potato and chili, $16) and Punjabi Kadi (vegetable chick pea dumplings, $17) and have to say that both were items we had never encountered on any Indian menus in Manhattan before. Both dishes featured sauces that were so memorable that again we had to hit the bread basket and sop up every last drop.
Punjabi Kadi
We ended our dinner with Passion Fruit Bombe ($12), which was a creamy confection that was halfway between mousse and ice cream and served on a pan friend ultra thing noodle known as Katafi, which was topped with coriander basil seeds. The dessert kind of looked like a very pale yellow egg in a bird's nest, but it was as light and refreshing as sorbet.
Passion Fruit Bombe
A $95 price fixe menu is available for adventurous (and hungry!) folks who like to have six courses! This menu changes but has received raves for those we have met who have tried it. When we were visiting the restaurant, this price fixe included the Lobster Tandoori, one of Junoon's most popular dishes. Let us state the atmosphere is warm, luxurious, and spacious all at one time with lighting that feels candlelit (even though there are no candles, but rather, very modern chandeliers and wall sconces). Ask for general manager Robin Lewis if you go--he did an impeccable job selecting wine for every course right up to an amazing sweet but not-to-sweet dessert wine. Tell him sent you and he will take extra special care of you (not that he isn't one of the best sommeliers in Manhattan to begin with).

27 West 24th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10010
(212) 490-2100

Junoon on Urbanspoon

[Photos: Anne M. Raso]

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